Its been a lot of fun counting down my favorite Marvel characters to get to #1 and I hope all of you tuning in have enjoyed it – I know many have been reading so I’m certainly grateful for that. Well, here we are, and without further ado the #1 spot on my top-ten list is none other than Steve Rogers a.ka. Captain America!
Anyone that knows me from the blog here, or from a couple of the other comic sites I frequent elsewhere, likely saw it coming a mile away but Captain America captured my imagination, struck a chord, and proved to be a more meaningful character for me than any other in comics and has been my favorite character since I began seriously collecting comics as a young teenager in the 80’s. Up until that point I had only had sparse contact with the character on shows like Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, and a reprint volume in my local public library, but when I began picking up his comic in the bookstores it took all of one story, two at most, to rocket Cap right to the top. What immediately impressed me about the character was the rock solid integrity that he possessed in the face of conflict, both moral and physical. He didn’t so much as flinch when he encountered a challenge and he took it one step further by literally awing his friends and opponents with his determination, and skill, in the face of seemingly impossible odds. His never-say-die attitude didn’t feel fake, rather, he literally believed he was going to come out on top.
It is man that faces impossible risks, and wins! – Captain America
Whether I knew it at the time, or not, that was just the kind of thing I needed to read about as a teenager and Cap really did play a huge role in helping to reinforce my ideal of what being a good, decent, human being was all about, things that my parents and grand-parents were striving to teach this young buck in real life. Funny enough, one of the criticisms Cap has received over the years was that some fans found it hard to relate to him, but for me it was never about relating with Cap, it was about striving to reach a loftier standard. And Cap is a lofty standard to reach because he’s a symbol of principles greater than any one man. Rooted very much in reality, Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby as their response to the ever-growing threat of Nazi fascism, created to give a voice to their opposition to Hitler and the destruction he left in his wake. Boldly appearing prior to our official entry into the war (December, 1940) he was brought to life with a bang, literally “smashing thru” and socking Hitler right in the jaw on the cover of Captain America Comics #1. Cap was their pro-active protector of freedom and the sense of devotion he had for his country through thought and action have made him something more than a four-color comic character. He’s not real, but his ideals are, and that’s the real power of the character. Of course, I mentioned in Spidey’s entry that only a handful of characters have a uniform as cool as his, and Captain America’s is one of them. While he wasn’t the first patriotic hero, and certainly didn’t have the first American flag inspired uniform, his was inspired in a way that none of the others could quite match, from the prominent stars and stripes, to the wings on the cowl, all illustrated with Simon and Kirby’s distinct and powerful style. Additionally, his unique shield became the perfect weapon to symbolize the strength – in both offense and defense – that he and his country undertook in in the good fight. Well, that, and it’s just plain awesome!
But who is the man behind the mask? It was a young, struggling, Steve Rogers who wanted nothing more than to do his part to serve his country in defeating the Nazi’s, but who was too frail to enlist in the U.S. Army. Dejected, he was approached by Dr. Erskine (a.k.a. Reinstein) to participate in a secret government sanctioned project designed to create an army of “Super-Soldiers.” These soldiers were to be “unlike anything the world had ever seen” with enhanced, preternatural, abilities that would place them leagues above the normal human and make them critical weapons against the enemies of the country. Long story short, Steve’s transformation was a success, but just as he was re-born, a Nazi spy shot and killed Dr. Erskine who had not fully committed his successful formula to record. Cap was the first, and last, of his kind and after bringing Erskin’s murder to justice he dedicated his life to becoming everything the good doctor had hoped for him, and more. Simply put, Cap’s accomplishments became the stuff of legend within the four-color page and he’s become something of a father-figure, and mentor, for the Marvel Universe in the decades since. Characters the likes of Spider-Man look up to him, he’s become the figure-head of the Mighty Avengers, and is synonymous with the heroic ideal in a way that few other characters, if any, have.
It’s been a heck of a lot of fun reading and collecting his adventures over the years and while Steve Rogers is currently ‘at rest’ in the Marvel Universe, to me, he’ll always be Captain America and while I am really enjoying having Bucky back, and am proud of the fact that he’s worthy of the role, and up to the challenge of striving to be Captain America, I hope that Rogers will will be back and once again take up his mantle. He is the original, he is the success story, and he’s the man that has forged the legend. For this, and numerous other reasons, Captain America is my favorite Marvel hero, and my favorite comic character at that.
“Go get ‘em Cap!”
When Captain America throws his mighty shield,
All those who chose to oppose his shield must yield.
If he’s led to a fight and a duel is due,
Then the red and white and the blue’ll come through
When Captain America throws his mighty shield.